The US Vice President virtually joined the Pacific Islands Forum leader’s meeting where she assured attendees that the US would increase their partnership with the region.
She detailed several key commitments that will be made to the Pacific Islands including the establishment of US embassies in Kiribati and Tonga.
It was mentioned that “regular exchange” is needed between governments, so the move makes sense to ensure easy communication. Similarly, the US says they are back on track to re-open their embassy in the Solomon Islands.
Harris said that strong relationships in the Pacific region are of the utmost importance to the US.
“We will listen, collaborate and coordinate at every step of the way,” she said.
“We will also work to empower a strong, united Pacific Island Forum which will strengthen your voice on the world stage as we continue to work together.”
Efforts will be made towards advancing the Partners in the Blue Pacific, a joint initiative between Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the UK and the US.
“The PBP is dedicated to supporting Pacific priorities more effectively and efficiently, to bolstering Pacific regionalism, and to expanding opportunities between the Pacific and the world,” said The White House.
“Our countries provide a combined $2.1 billion in development assistance for the region.”
Approximately US$600 million (A$886 million) is to be requested from the US congress in order to fund the South Pacific Tuna Treaty over the next 10 years, allowing the US to fish and combat illegal fishing the in the area. This is triple the amount the initiative already receives.
A national strategy on US-Pacific relations will be made and published at a later date, which they say, will help with implementation of strategies.
The Peace Corps will also see a return to the Pacific with volunteers to be sent to Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu while a humanitarian mission will be re-established in Fiji to help with development and crisis care.
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, who has been in the US these past few days, told the ABC he welcomed the commitment from the US.
“What it shows is that there’s an increasing US interest in the Pacific Island countries but that’s actually backed up with real policies and real engagement.
“There has been engagement from the United States but we need to see more.”